In recent times, I've read two posts from No Kidding bloggers taking opposite positions on an issue that comes up from time to time. Are our pets our children? I'm not going to enter this debate, but it is an example that, as there are more No Kidding women writing and speaking out, there will be a wider range of opinions about what life is like for those of us who are living No Kidding lives without children. And perhaps we should be a wee bit careful when we try to speak for our group. We're not all the same.
I know that it is very easy for us to take offence at words or behaviour that feel unkind or pointed. After all, it is kind of funny that I'm writing this post when only a week ago I wrote about some comments that I felt were meant to hurt me. It is, of course, particularly easy to be hurt and offended when we are still hurting ourselves, when we are vulnerable, when every nerve in our body (and brain) is sensitised, when we have that distorted view that half the world is pregnant or has a baby, and that the rest of the world is against us. Whilst I won't criticise anyone for feeling this way at such a difficult time, it is good too to gently put an alternative point of view, or offer reasons why someone might have said something or acted in a particular way, without denying the person the legitimate reaction to something that hurts.
Gradually, though, as we heal most of us become better able to distinguish between genuine, if misguided, attempts to be kind, and those comments or behaviour designed to put us in our place, criticise our situations or decisions, and make us feel lesser. Or to recognise comments or actions that were thoughtless but innocent, and shrug or laugh at the ignorance behind them.
In the two posts I'm thinking about, offence was taken for opposite reactions. One person commented that nobody would ever say "your pets are your children" if they had been through what we have been through. Yet another blogger, who was also childless not by choice, did indeed feel that their dog was their child, and was upset that family members weren't treating the dog accordingly. Interestingly, both posts felt that these comments and behaviour were an example of discrimination against their No Kidding status, and were an example of being ignored and dismissed.
However, I personally know people who do not share our No Kidding status but who refer to their pets as children, and would be only too happy to refer to my pets as mine. Who always included our cats (when they were alive) on our Christmas cards, and their pets as well as their children. Their reactions weren't a case of being condescending towards a childless couple, but rather of acknowledging the importance of pets in their and our family. Likewise, I know No Kidding people who would not treat a dog as a child, or make concessions for a dog's behaviour in the way they might for a child, and mean no offence. It's not necessarily an issue where the lines are drawn based on your childless or parent status.
So thinking about these posts reminded me to question motivations (my own and others) before taking offence. Now that I'm comfortable in my No Kidding life, it is easier to do this. I'll feel pain when it is warranted, but understanding someone's motivations means I can take offence with a grain of salt, and not feel the pain so acutely, if at all. I find too I can dismiss some assumptions, forgive some, and laugh at others. Or I can choose to genuinely try and educate. Importantly, I can laugh at myself too, if I am at risk of taking myself too seriously. I think it's a valuable skill, that helps me live my life. And I probably need to employ it more often!